Harper Adams University is planning the UK’s first School of Sustainable Food and Farming in a project supported by retailer Morrisons and the veterinary research group RAFT Solutions.

The new Harper school will draw on academic and practical expertise plus industry networks to develop the knowledge and skills for farmers and other businesses in the supply chain to reduce the environmental impact of food production. Initial research topics will include livestock breed choice; diet composition; yield improvement; agricultural building design; on-farm renewable energy; precision farming; sensors and the use of data.

“The initial targets will be centred around how to achieve net-zero UK agriculture,” says Harper Adams deputy vice-chancellor Professor Michael Lee. “However, the ambition of the school will include wider aspects of sustainability including biodiversity, animal welfare, rural community support, green energy production and farm profitability.”

RAFT Solutions was created by the Bishopton Veterinary Group and XL Vets network to research and disseminate sustainable livestock practices, and has attracted funding from Innovate UK, the EU Horizon H2020 programme and other industry funding bodies.

Jonathan Statham, chief executive of RAFT Solutions and professor of sustainable livestock health and welfare at the Harper & Keele Vet School, adds: “We are proud to support Morrisons in its net-zero carbon ambition by 2030, with practical and achievable farm level solutions to the sustainability challenge.

“The pressures on farming and farmers are intense but there are win-win opportunities where better animal health and welfare are better economically as well as better for the planet. Reducing the waste of poor health and reproductive inefficiency alongside delivering practical precision livestock farming solutions is where our work supports sustainable farming.”